As commencement draws nearer, seniors at Keene State College are ordering caps and gowns, customizing their sashes and preparing to walk across the stage on the Fiske Quad, diploma proudly in hand.
However, graduate regalia could look different this year or next than it has in years past.
Over the past few years, there have been conversations surrounding whether the graduation hood is necessary. It is typically worn by graduates at the KSC commencement ceremony to represent which academic school each student is graduating from: the School of Professional and Graduate Studies, the School of Sciences and Social Sciences and/or the School of Arts and Humanities.
Since KSC Coordinator of College Ceremonies and Events Rebecca Dixon arrived at the college in 2015, she said there have been many conversations about getting rid of them all together, mainly because wearing them as an undergraduate is not in line with what other institutions do. “We have to try to bring it back in line with our other sister institutions and make sure that it’s in line with what other undergraduates receive when they graduate,” she said.
The University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Granite State College don’t distribute undergraduate hoods at their commencement ceremonies, but KSC has done so since its 75th anniversary.
Since 1984 had marked the 75th anniversary of the college, at the time, the hoods were meant to add more color and festivity to the ceremony, Dixon said. Although she said she’s not sure why it became a KSC tradition, it became a regular part of the commencement regalia, and the newly established “tradition” continued.
Typically, hoods are reserved for those who have obtained a degree beyond a bachelor’s degree, and they generally denote scholarly and professional achievements, according to the History of the Hooding Ceremony on the Cameron University website.
Master’s degree hoods are generally worn more than once, according to Dixon, and KSC undergraduates likely would not wear them again, especially considering the gowns are 100 percent recyclable and the hoods are not.
The fact that KSC distributed them for undergraduates, Dixon said, is “unusual.”
While Dixon said she’s been working with the senior class’ executive board to make this decision, Class of 2018 Secretary and senior Emma Hamilton said the conversation came about because they were told the decision had already been made during a meeting the executive board wasn’t originally in on.
After the Class of 2018 Executive Board collectively spoke with Dixon, Hamilton said the cost of the hoods began to play a role.
With the new Barnes & Noble Bookstore ownership, purchasing hoods for the entire senior class would cost $35,000, according to Treadwell, and would have required the Class of 2018 to contribute about $15,000 from their account.
However, Hamilton said the executive board members wanted to ensure they were able to provide seniors with other experiences, such as a class trip, graduate gifts and a class gift to the college. Additionally, they felt $15,000 was a lot of money and voted to either not pay anything at all and leave it in the hands of the college or ask students to pay $5 each.
“We came to an agreement that it wasn’t acceptable to be asking students to pay for commencement regalia because they already pay for the sash, so why add more money onto it?” Hamilton said.
However, Treadwell met with the Class of 2018 Executive Board on Tuesday, March 20 and told the class that at this point, 46 days before graduation, she thinks it’s too late in the year to take away this tradition at KSC. Graduates took professional graduation yearbook photos earlier in the academic year wearing the hoods, which Treadwell said furthered her concern.
Treadwell’s next steps, she said, are to meet with the finance team this week to try and find the funds to purchase hoods for this year’s graduating class. If $35,000 is not found, the class will not wear hoods during the ceremony.
Hamilton said if Treadwell ends up needing some contributed funds, the Class of 2018 Executive Board will offer $5,000 from their account.
Treadwell told the executive board, however, that she is trying her best to make sure they do not have to contribute any money.
Next year, Treadwell said she plans to begin an earlier conversation about potentially not offering them to the Class of 2019 and those beyond.
Dixon and Treadwell said they are working with the Class of 2018 Executive Board to develop communication to the entire senior class.
Graduating seniors can pick up their caps, gowns and sashes at the Commencement Fair on March 28 and 29 from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the KSC Bookstore.
If Treadwell is successful in finding funds to provide the Class of 2018 with hoods, they would be picked up at a later date.
The Commencement ceremony will be held on the Fiske Quad on May 5 at 1 p.m..
Note: Emma Hamilton was a former editor for The Equinox, but given her role in student government, was interviewed for the story.
President of the Class of 2018 Alayna LaBaire was not available to comment.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at email@example.com